Abortion ban again advancing at SC State House

Three weeks to the day after the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down the state’s six-week ban on abortion, a new total ban is now under consideration.
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 7:37 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Three weeks to the day after the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down the state’s six-week ban on abortion, a new near-total ban is now under consideration at the State House.

This legislation, which advanced out of a House Judiciary subcommittee Thursday, is even more restrictive than the one the court just ruled unconstitutional.

The bill bans abortion from conception, with exceptions for the life and health of the mother, fatal fetal anomalies, and victims of rape and incest, who would then be required to report the assault to law enforcement.

People who perform abortions would face criminal charges, but those seeking an abortion would not.

“The Human Life Protection Act, H.3774, is the vehicle to restore legal protection to the children waiting to be born in South Carolina,” SC Citizens for Life Executive Director Holly Gatling told lawmakers during Thursday’s hearing.

“I’m representing all the people in South Carolina who are already born, who are already struggling for basic healthcare,” Vicki Ringer of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic later testified.

Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court ruled South Carolina’s “Fetal Heartbeat Law,” which prohibited most abortions after around six weeks, violated the right to privacy guaranteed in the state constitution.

The lead sponsor of the new bill said he believes a concurring opinion written by Associate Justice John Few in that ruling leaves the door open for the court to uphold a more restrictive bill.

“He weighed the life of a fetus against the right to privacy,” Rep. John McCravy, R – Greenwood and the bill’s primary sponsor, said during Thursday’s hearing. “In his opinion, however, he stated that if the legislature had found that a human life begins at conception, the interest of a human life would outweigh the right to privacy.”

McCravy said that is satisfied in this new bill, whose 40-plus other sponsors include Speaker of the House Murrell Smith, R – Sumter, Speaker Pro Tem Tommy Pope, R – York, House Majority Leader Davey Hiott, R – Pickens, and House Judiciary Committee Chair Weston Newton, R – Beaufort.

McCravy chaired an ad hoc committee formed last summer to lay the groundwork for South Carolina’s response to the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in June, which overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling and sent the question of abortion access back to the states.

Out of that committee’s work, the House passed a ban from conception with exceptions, similar to the new legislation.

But the Senate did not have enough votes to pass a ban from conception, and as opposed to House members who were up for re-election last fall, the same senators still hold their seats this year.

“The bill, H.3774, is a product of that debate and something we think can pass in both houses,” McCravy said Thursday.

After hearing about 25 minutes of public testimony Thursday — noting lawmakers had heard nearly 10 hours of testimony on abortion during the special session last summer — the House Judiciary Constitutional Laws Subcommittee advanced the bill to the full Judiciary Committee in a 3-0 vote, with the two Democrats on the five-member panel not there to vote because of scheduling conflicts.

Rep. Spencer Wetmore, who does not sit on this subcommittee but attended Thursday’s hearing and sits on the full Judiciary Committee, told reporters afterward she believes this bill has legal and political issues.

“I certainly respect and understand the conviction of the advocates behind this bill. I really do,” Wetmore, D – Charleston, said. “But at some point, you have to accept that if the legislature said no, the Supreme Court said no, and here we are, trying it one more time.”

Gov. Henry McMaster said in his State of the State address Wednesday night that he and other state officials will next week request a rehearing with the Supreme Court on the six-week abortion ban.

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